2019 ALLURE OF THE ISLANDS

Oceania


BLISS BECKONS: An appealing array of activities awaits you, from relaxation to water sports to opportunities for learning about the culturally rich traditions of the Caribbean region.



Aruba, Bonaire, Grenada, Barbados, St. Lucia, St. Kitts, St. Barts


Day 1, Tue, Feb 5 – Miami, Embark the RIVIERA
Schedule the usual early StuporShuttle pickup about 5AM. Fly to Miami. Unfriendly AwfulLines changed their flight schedules so I had to switchto American Airlines.

American AA 1095IAH – Miami7:25A – 11:05A2:401C

I have a Pre-booked transfer to the ship so meet the Oceania agent and after the usual long wait, transfer to the Riviera, maybe in time for lunch. Then after the usual rigmarole, depart for a couple of days of watching the water go by before we get to Aruba.

Day 2, Wed, Feb 6 – Cruising the Old Bahama Channel #1 of 4

Day 3, Thu, Feb 7 – Cruising the Caribbean Sea #2 of 4

Day 4, Fri, Feb 8 – Oranjestad, Aruba (10AM - 11PM)
** Distinguished by its colorful Dutch colonial architecture, Oranjestad is the capital of Aruba, first settled in 1796. Named as a tribute to the Dutch king William of Orange, the city today attracts tourists searching for duty-free bargains and strolling around the beautiful streets.

PBK (AUA-002) Scenes of Aruba – 3 1/2 hours
This mostly panoramic tour provides you with an excellent opportunity to take in the scenic delights of this captivating Island and see the unique features of Aruba that set it apart from other destinations.

Traveling from the pier, you will first enjoy a scenic drive along Eagle Beach, past the popular resort hotels to the oldest lighthouse on the island, the California Lighthouse. After a photo stop here, you will continue on to your second stop, Alto Vista Chapel. This is the site where the Spanish missionaries are said to have converted the island's Indians into Christians in 1560.

Next, your route takes you along the North coast to Baby Natural Bridge, situated next to the former Natural Bridge, which was Aruba's premier attraction until its collapse in 2005. This spot vividly demonstrates the powerful forces of the sea, which over the years has carved through coral and lime stone, creating amazing formations and arches in the rocks.

Before returning to the pier, your excursion makes a final stop at the Casibari Rock formation, a group of large diorite and granite boulders found nowhere else in the Caribbean. As you make your way back along the South coast toward Oranjestad, you will also pass the world's largest water desalination plant.

Please note: This tour involves limited walking, mainly at the guest's discretion. Some of the venues on this tour charge for use of the restrooms. No filming or photos are allowed at Alto Vista Chapel.

Day 5, Sat, Feb 9 – Kralendijk, Bonaire (7AM - 2PM)
** Go for a hike in Washington-Slagbaai National Park and look for birds, lizards and iguanas. Snorkel in the sapphire seas surrounded by a rainbow of tropical fish. Visit a butterfly garden, go sea kayaking through mangroves, see the famed saltwater lake Gotomeer, watch the fishing boats along the Playa Pabou waterfront, or enjoy a quiet moment on Pink Beach or at the Lourdes Grotto.

PBK (KRA-004) 4x4 Adventure to Bonaire's East Coast – 3 1/2 hours
Travel off road in a 4x4 Land Rover to the rugged eastern shore of Bonaire, a land of giant cacti, abundant wildlife and stunning natural beauty. Depart from the pier in a 4x4 Land Rover and begin driving through Bonaire’s lovely capital of Kralendijk. As you travel east, you’ll notice the land becoming more rugged. Before long, you will leave the paved highway and head off road into the arid, remote countryside. This area of Bonaire is less developed than the rest of the island and revered for its beauty.

During the drive, you may encounter wild donkeys, which the Spanish introduced to Bonaire more than 500 years ago. Other animals commonly sighted are Caribbean parakeets, yellow-shouldered parrots and iguanas. Although the eastern shore isn’t highly populated, during a photo stop, you will probably see windsurfers cutting through the waves at Sorobon Beach, as there is usually a steady offshore breeze.

Continuing on, you will pass one of Bonaire’s many lighthouses before pausing at a number of small stone huts that served as slave quarters until slavery was abolished in 1863. Many of the slaves worked in the surrounding salt flats, an area known today for its abundance of flamingoes. The birds congregate here to dine on brine shrimp, a diet that endows them with a beautiful rosy hue. While highly social among their own species, flamingoes are skittish around humans and prefer to keep their distance. Following your time here, you will drive back to the pier.

Please note: This tour includes a limited amount of walking, mainly at the guests’ discretion during the stops. The off-road terrain can be bumpy and there are 2 high steps to negotiate to enter and exit the vehicle. Dependent upon rainfall, the dirt roads can become muddy. Wildlife sightings, while common, are not guaranteed. There is only 1 restroom facility at Sorobon Beach.

Day 6, Sun, Feb 10 – St. George’s, Grenada (1AM - 10PM)
** You can smell the cinnamon and nutmeg well before you dock in St. George’s; a tour of the spice estates on Grenada is almost mandatory. You can also take in a visit to a distillery to see how the island’s sugarcane juice is first turned into syrup and then into rum. A ferry trip to sister island Carriacou offers fantastic diving opportunities, and romantics can climb the waterfalls or just relax on the sun-kissed beaches.

(ONBD) (GND-001) The Spice of Our Lives – 4 hours
Enjoy this tour that gives you a nice overview of Grenada's quaint old city of St. George along with an introduction to why the island is referred to as the Spice Isle. Setting off from the pier, you will first travel through St. George, getting a taste of the town's highlights before heading to the De La Grenade Industries. Located just a few miles outside of town, this family-owned company produces jams and jellies and the prize winning Nutmeg Syrup and De La Grenade Liqueur, which are both made from nutmeg. Before leaving, you will also be treated to a taste of their delicious rum-punch.

From here, it's on to the Laura Herb and Spice Garden. Arriving, you will find yourself engulfed in the aroma of every spice that is grown on the Island. Within the garden you will find a wide variety of herbs and medicinal plants, some of which are exported for use in patented medicines and in Caribbean and International cuisine. Some of these local medicinal plants sport fun names like Shado Bennie and Jump Up and Kiss Me. Amongst others, you will also find aromatic spices such as cocoa, nutmeg, mace, pimento, cinnamon, vanilla, tumeric and cloves.

Your final stop is at Westerhall Estates which produces the Island's leading rums. After a brief tour here, you will have a chance to sample their exotic rum blends before it's time to return to the pier.

Please note: This tour involves approximately 60-minutes of easy walking. Lightweight clothing, flat comfortable walking shoes, sun cap, sunglasses, sunscreen and insect repellant are suggested.

Day 7, Mon, Feb 11 – Bridgetown, Barbados (10AM - 8PM)
** Discover the many beautiful aspects of this island, from its rugged Atlantic coastline to its beautiful Great Houses, cane fields, exquisite gardens and glorious beaches.

(ONBD) (BDG-003) Discover Barbados – 3 ½ hours
This tour is designed to show you the varied picturesque landscapes the island has to offer and involves very little walking. Begin with a scenic drive through the peaceful countryside with its sugar cane fields and quaint villages. Then compare the contrasting dramatic east coast's Atlantic breakers with the sandy beaches and hotels along the west or Caribbean coast. Visit St. John's Church, a fine classic Gothic church dating back to 1836 and enjoy stunning views of the Atlantic coast from the churchyard. Enjoy a cool drink at Highland Centre while you enjoy the views of the east coast from an elevation of 1000 feet. Great photo opportunities will abound.

Day 8, Tue, Feb 12 – Castries, St. Lucia (7AM - 5PM)
* Explore this lush, beautiful island and its bustling capital. Visit the historic La Toc Battery, see banana plantations, and watch silk screening at Bagshaws. Venture south to Soufriere at the base of the Piton peaks and see the unique gingerbread architecture of the marketplace.

(PBK) (STL-009) Panoramic View – 3 hours
This tour is ideal for those who wish to enjoy the full beauty of St. Lucia at a leisurely pace with minimal walking. Leaving by coach from the pier, you'll first drive through the town of Castries where various points of interest will be pointed out by your local guide before making the winding drive up The Morne for a wonderful panoramic view of the city, the harbor and even as far away as the neighboring island of Martinique!

Continuing upward, you'll travel to The Morne complex to view the Inniskilling Monument, which was erected in honor of the 27th Inniskilling Regiment who captured the Morne from the French for the British in 1796. This area is also home to one of St. Lucia's highest educational institutions, the OECS Secretariat, as well as the island's main television station.

A short drive away is Caribelle Batik, where a brief stop gives you the opportunity to see an artist creating distinctive works of art by using hot wax. Perhaps you'll want to shop for one of her special treasures before it's time to leave. Your tour next journeys along scenic secondary roads that run through the hills skirting the city, passing through colorful small communities and providing picturesque views of both the Atlantic and Caribbean coasts of the island.

Your next stop is at a view point within the community of La Guerre, where you will have a spectacular view of what was once the largest banana plantation on the island, the Marquis Estate. From here, it's onward through other quaint communities while making your way to Monchy, where a magnificent view of Rodney Bay and Pigeon Island greets you before entering Stony Hill, the private residence of Dr. Sony and his wife Cynthia. Your gracious hosts will happily chat with you and regal you with many fascinating stories of island life while opening their garden for your enjoyment. You are welcome to stroll around the grounds or simply sit and appreciate the peaceful tranquility from one of several seats scattered around the garden, or a comfortable lounge overlooking the inviting pool. Not to be missed is a tour of their lovely house where you can enjoy a cool refreshing drink and sweet savory treats before it's time to head back to the ship. There are approximately 40 steps to negotiate throughout this tour.

Please note: This tour includes a limited amount of walking and steps. Lightweight clothing, a hat and comfortable walking shoes are recommended.

Day 9, Wed, Feb 13 – Basseterre, St. Kitts (10AM - 11PM)
With more than a quarter of the island set aside as a national park and a rainforest that is growing rather than shrinking, St. Kitts is a stunning tropical island escape. Soar through the Valley of the Giants on a thrilling zip line, hike to Sofa Rock, which is the cap of a still smoldering volcano, or simply spend the day relaxing on one of the many beaches protected by major coral reefs.

After today, this cruise is essentially over. The next port doesn't offer anything of interest and is a tender port, so just stay onboard. I'm now stuck with the next three days of nothing - a stay-onboard port and two days of Cruzzzing.

(PBK) (SKB-004) Safari Island Drive 3 ½ hours
Explore the scenic beauty and diverse topography of St. Kitts in an open-air Safari style vehicle during this fun island tour. Your tour begins with drive through town before proceeding west to the renowned Caribelle Batik where you can observe local artists transform Sea Island cotton into stunning Batik fabrics, and learn about the secrets of this ancient art form. Afterwards, you will proceed to Romney Manor, originally owned by the great-grandfather of Thomas Jefferson, the third U.S. president. Nestled amidst expansive and meticulously maintained grounds, this 12-acre botanical paradise is truly a wonder to behold.

Continuing on, your scenic island drive will travel through the historic Old Road Village, and past Middle Island and the world-renowned Brimstone Hill Fortress. A stop will be made at Gibbon's Hill for spectacular views and photo opportunities overlooking the area where the Atlantic Ocean meets the Caribbean Sea in a crash of waves. Your drive will then proceed to Black Rocks for a refreshment and photo stop, before joining the Kim Collins Highway to Frigate Bay where you'll have a final stop for photos at scenic Timothy Hill. From this marvelous viewpoint you are treated to breathtaking vistas of the Frigate Bay resort area that includes long stretches of golden sandy beaches, foaming crests of Atlantic waves to the north, the tranquil Caribbean Sea to the south, an 18-hole golf course, and stately homes on the slopes of the majestic hills in the background. Afterwards, re-board your coach and travel back to the pier.

Please note: This tour includes limited walking, mainly at the guests' discretion during the stops. However, it does travel over bumpy surfaces.

Day 10, Thu, Feb 14 – Gustavia, St. Barts (Tender Port) (7AM - 5PM)
LEAST FAVORITE PORT OF THE TRIP. Tour this beautiful island and marvel at the rugged coastline and its unspoiled, upscale atmosphere, unique in the Caribbean for its Swedish and French heritage. Enjoy the spectacular beaches and resorts, or see underwater wonders from a semi-submersible marine vessel. POOR! I've done it and it is not worth the $$. Particularly since this is a tender port, just stay onboard

(SBH-009) Yellow Semi-Sub Exploration – 1 hours POOR! Stay onboard
BOTTOM OF THE BARREL EXCURSION: Tendering to shore from the ship, you will board your semi-submersible craft at the tender pier. Descending into the hull of the vessel, you'll find seating in front of the large underwater windows that provide a colorful vista of the undersea attractions found around St. Bart's harbor area. On your way to the harbor entrance, you may encounter such delightful creatures as the green sea turtles that have made this area their home and will pass over the wreck of the island freighter Marignan, which sank during the height of Hurricane Luis in 1995.

Your vessel makes its way to the southeastern edge of the St. Bart Marine Park, where a delightful parade of colorful tropical fish will make their way past your viewing portal and vibrant coral reefs dot the ocean floor below. Traveling on, a stop will be made at The Saints, a group of 3 small islands.

Day 11, Fri, Feb 15 – Cruising the Atlantic Ocean #3 of 4

Day 12, Sat, Feb 16 – Cruising the Atlantic Ocean #4 of 4

Day 13, Sun, Feb 17 – Miami, Disembark
After another two days of watching the water go by, arrive in Miami and get kicked off the barge and make a run for the airport to get home. However when I get there it will be a very long wait before I can even check in for the flight. Un-Friendly AwfulLines did their usual dirty work: they changed the flight to over 1 1/4 hour later. When I looked for an alternate time, my "original" flight was still listed, but for both more money and a $200 change fee. I'm going to start looking at other airlines. It is now a boring very long wait with the luggage haul-around hassle. Finally get checked in.

American AA 4476Miami – IAH2:15 – 3:592:441A

If the flight is on time, get to Houston and home by about 8, maybe.

EXCURSIONS
ARUBA(AUA-002) Scenes of Aruba3 hoursPreBook$159/$119.25
BONAIRE(KRA-004) 4x4 Adventure to Bonaire East Coast3 hoursPreBook$79/$59.25
GRENADA(GND-001) The Spice of Our Lives4 hoursonboard$89
BARBADOS(BDG-003) Discover Barbados3 ½ hoursonboard$79
ST LUCIA(STL-009) Panoramic View3 hoursPreBook$79/$59.25
ST KITTS(SKB-004) Safari Island Drive3 ½ hoursPreBook$89/$66.75
ST BARTS(SBH-009) Yellow Semi-Sub Exploration1 ½ hoursscratch$99


CATTLE BARGE: RIVIERA


Riviera was designed to be distinctive and special in so many ways. Supposedly spacious accommodations in every category. However, for the “Queen of the Fleet” the internet service is exceptionally lousy / virtually non-existent.

DINING
Terrace Café (Deck 12) -- Informal and carefree, the Terrace Café Buffet is wonderfully inviting any time of day to enjoy sumptuous breakfast selections. Come lunch, the expansive menu of international-inspired dishes changes entirely, complemented by flavorful roasted and rotisserie meats and the magic of the pizzeria’s oven. Evenings, the wait staff shines, and the cuisine takes on a more sophisticated flair. Open for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Waves Grill (Deck 12) -- Casual dining is an all-American favorites, a style laid-back Waves Grill epitomizes. Located in a spacious, shaded area steps from the swimming pool, Waves Grill offers an extensive and mouthwatering luncheon menu. Watch the chefs grill gourmet burgers to order in the open galley, accompanying them with side dishes like garden-fresh salads and crispy, fries. Open briefly for breakfast 6:30 – 8, then open for lunch and afternoon dining only ~11AM – 4PM.

C-DELUXE OUTSIDE: Mine is #7067, deck 7, starboard, approx. mid-ships. Our 242-square-foot Staterooms are the largest at sea. Each stateroom also includes a plush seating area, refrigerated mini-bar, spacious closet and a very cramped marble and granite-clad bathroom with a bathtub/shower (which takes up way too much room). There is even a desk. No veranda but a good view.

Deluxe Outside Stateroom Amenities
* Refrigerated mini-bar with free and unlimited soft drinks and bottled water replenished daily
* Full-size bathtub
* Flat-screen television with live satellite news and programming
* Wireless extremely poor internet, seldom accessible

THE SHIP
* Length: 784.95 feet
* Beam: 105.646 feet
* Stabilizers: Yes
* Cruising Speed: 20 knots
* Guest Decks: 11
* Total Decks: 16
* Electric Power or Voltage: 110, 220 AC
* Guest Capacity: 1,250 (Double Occupancy)
* Staff Size: 800

Deck 5: Concierge, Destination Services, Lounge
Deck 7: Cabin
Deck 12: Terrace Cafe, Waves Grill



OCEANIA CRUISES:
1 Nov 16, 2016 - Caribbean Charisma, Regatta, 13 days
2 Dec 16, 2016 - Heart of the Caribbean, Riviera, 11 days
3 Jan 13, 2018 - Seaswept Breeze, Riviera, 11 days
4 Apr 22, 2018 - Seaside Sojourn, Marina, 17 days
5 Jun 15, 2018 - Panama Enchantment, Insignia, only 4 days
6 Feb 5, 2019 - Allure of the Islands, Riviera, 13 days